By Brad Mosher
Big plays made a big difference Friday at Lemmon for the Mott-Regent/New England Wildfire in the season opener for both teams.
Unfortunately for the North Dakota squad, most of the big plays were by the Cowboys on the way to a 52-14 win over the Wildfire.
And the Wildfire also had three turnovers early in the third quarter to break the game open for the Cowboys.
“Those turnovers just kept piling up,” Wildfire head coach Nate Zachmann said after the game. “Turnovers are always a big thing.”
The Wildfire also ran into a team with a lot of size and a lot of weapons, the coach added. “We have to just get back to the grind and sharpen up next week for Hettinger. There is stuff that people don’t see in the stands that we have to clean up like interior blocking and communication.
“I was very, very proud of our kids effort. They fought and they fought all night.”
Lemmon/McIntosh quarterback Cody Thompson threw for 30 touchdowns in 2018. He got off to a fast start on 2019 Friday.
The junior signal-caller passed for six touchdowns and ran for another against the Wildfire. He passed for 240 yards in the first half and finished the game with 310 yards and connecting on 11 of his 28 throws with no interceptions.
The Cowboys picked up 115 yards on 19 carries on the ground.
Jaden Kelley caught three passes, all for touchdowns, and 100 total yards. Isiah Port caught two for 29 yards and one score, while Jerred Fergel had four catches for 86 yards. Jacob Hetzel had one for 45 yards, and Alec O’Donnell had one catch for 53 yards and a touchdown.
The Cowboys’ offense ripped the Wildfire defense for 425 yards in total offense.
The Wildfire finished the night with 165 yards on the ground and 118 in the air. The rushing total came on 38 carries. Hewson led the rushers with 110 yards, after having 124 yards before several losses cut his total. Sam Heuther had 15 carries for 45 yards, while throwing 4 for 12 in the air. Nathan Kaufman hit one.
Hewson caught three for 58 yards, including a 47-yard TD catch.
Michael Frank caught one pass for 47 yards.
Cowboys pounce on Wildfire
The Cowboys got on the scoreboard first Friday with a 78-yard pass play between Thompson and Jaden Kelley.
The score came on a second down play after a Wildfire punt.
The Cowboys started moving the next time they had the ball, driving down to the Wildfire 35-yard line. Isiah Portwood added 13 more yards to set the ball to the 22-yard line.
A Thompson pass moved the ball to the nine on on a pass to Kelley.
On a third and goal play, Thompson was sacked by the Wildfire defense, forcing a fourth-down play from the 10-yard line.
Thompson couldn’t connect, giving the Wildfire the ball on their own 10-yard line.
Nathan Kaufman took over at quarterback on the next play, handing it to Hewson for 10 yards and a first down. It was the first first down of the game with just over two minutes left in the first quarter.
Hewson added another nine, then moved the ball out to the 43-yard line, giving the Wildfire a second first down in the game.
The ball moved into Cowboy territory only to have a fumble move them back and send the Wildfire into a fourth and four situation just shy of midfield.
The punt moved the Cowboys back to their own 10-yard line as time ran out for the quarter.
A punt and a penalty gave the Wildfire the ball again on the Cowboys’ 46-yard line.
Hewson moved the ball to the 39-yard line.
A penalty moved the ball back to the Lemmon 34-yard line, setting up a third down play.
The drive stalled, with the Wildfire punting to the 23-yard line.
On the first scrimmage play, Fergel broke through the Wildfire defense on a pass from Thompson, only to be knocked out of bounds just shy of the goal line.
Thompson scored from a yard out on the next play, giving the hosts a 12-0 lead with 8:41 left in the second period. Josh Harrison caught the two-point conversion, making it a 14-0 advantage.
The Wildfire moved out to the 43-yard line only to stall there before being forced to punt.
Cowboys started on the 35-yard line after a penalty.
Thompson beat a blitz and connected with Jacob Hetzel on a 45-yard pass that moved the ball to the Wildfire 20-yard line.
Thompson hit Harrison with a pass, only to the have the ball fumbled and recovered by the Cowboys at the five.
Kelley caught a five-yard pass on the next play to give the Cowboys a 20-0 lead with 3:24 left before halftime.
Starting on their own 27-yard line, the Wildfire started a drive with Heuther gaining six yards on a keeper.
The Wildfire moved the ball downfield using a spread formation.
On a fourth-and less than a yard with just over a minute left on the clock, the Wildfire gambled and picked up a first down on Heuther’s keeper.
Heuther then hit Hewson on a 47-yard pass play for the Wildfire’s first score with 34 seconds left. Hewson caught the conversion pass, making the score 20-8.
It took just one play for the Cowboys to score again after they returned the kickoff to the 45 yard line.
Thompson hit Alec O’Donnell with a 55-yard scoring toss that made the score 26-8. The Cowboys went big on the conversion attempt, with Thompson hitting 6-foot-6 lineman Jimal Storm for the two points.
Turnovers break open game
In the second half, turnovers made a big difference, with the visitors losing possession of the ball three times in a half-dozen plays in the third quarter.
On the first play, Heuther fumbled the ball away on the 22-yard line.
A five-yard penalty moved the ball to the 17-yard line, then Thompson hit Kelley for a 17-yard score. The Cowboys added the the two-point conversion, making it a 36-8 lead with 11:42 left in the third quarter.
On the next series, Heuther hit Michael Frank with a 17-yard pass. Then Heuther was picked off by Lemmon/McIntosh defender Hetzel at the the Cowboys’ 35-yard line.
The Cowboys stalled and punted the ball away. Hewson returned the ball to the Wildfire 47-yard line.
Hewson ran the ball to the 30-yard line, for a 23-yard pickup.
Hewson got the ball on the next play, running it to the end zone for a 30-yard score, putting him over 100 yards rushing for the evening with 9:15 left to play in the third quarter. The conversion failed, making it a 36-14 contest.
The Cowboys had to punt the ball away on their next possession but recovered a Wildfire fumble on the first play, setting the hosts up at the 18-yard line.
The fumble was the third turnover in just seven plays.
Thompson missed on a pass on the first play, but then connected with Portwood for an 18-yard score along the sideline to give the hosts a 42-14 lead. A two-point conversion by Fergel made the score 44-8 with 8:24 left in the third quarter.
On the next series, the Wildfire gave up an interception to Kelley, giving the Cowboys the ball at their own 20-yard line.
The Cowboys couldn’t connect, punting the ball away four plays later, but neither could the Wildfire.
On their next possession, the Cowboys used a double reverse to move the ball deep into the Wildfire territory as time ran out in the third quarter.
Starting the fourth quarter on the 39-yard line, the Cowboys hit a touchdown pass with Riley Tennant going in for the score, making it a 50-14 lead. Tennant caught the two-point conversion for the final points of the game with 11:50 still left in the fourth quarter.
With the clock running continuously for most of the fourth quarter, the Cowboys almost had the ball intercepted by Cole Manolovits on a third down play, after it was deflected.
The hosts gambled on a fourth down play deep in Wildfire territory, converting on a pass to Max Mollman on the Mott-Regent/New England 22-yard line.
The Cowboys moved the ball down to the two-yard line before time ran out.
The Wildfire will host Hettinger/Scranton Friday after they opened the season with a 28-6 loss to Beach.